Giovanni Trapattoni has told his World Cup playoff hopefuls that France are beatable -- and he has the DVDs to prove it.
Trapattoni, who has left Andy Reid and Stephen Reid out of his squad for the two games against the French, has spent hours studying Raymond Domenech’s side in their qualifying campaign.
France finished second to Serbia in their group, and Trapattoni is adamant that he has seen enough to offer Ireland confidence in the two legs if his players believe in themselves.
“We are underdogs so it is important to believe in what we do and why,” claimed Trapattoni. “When I sit down with the team before France we will study the World Cup qualification group and we will look at our situation in other games.
“I will tell them to look at it, look at why we are strong as a team and as a unit. When we repeat those performances we are not the underdogs.
“In football it is 11 against 11. Anything can happen and it is important to believe that. Sure, the French have other qualities. They can dribble fast, they can score goals but we have other mentalities.
“We have discipline. We have heart. We have ability. We have mentality. We are not soft. Ireland is not soft and the French know it.
“I have friends in France and they told me that the French are talking about is, that they are afraid of us. They know our discipline, our mentality and our good performances on the pitch. Once the whistle blows it is a game of football and anything can happen.”
Europe’s most successful club manager now knows that he is dealing with a limited squad inside that Ireland dressingroom, but like those who came before him he has come to realize that Irish heart can master any occasion.
He believes he can teach his players to contain everything bar a moment of inspiration from the likes of Benzema, Anelka, Gagnac and the fitness doubt Henry at Croke Park.
And he is adamant there are weaknesses in the French side and their spirit after watching DVDs of all their qualifiers against Serbia, Romania, Austria and the Faroe Islands.
“It is important to realize that France finished second in their group just like we did, and I will be saying that to the players,” said Trapattoni.
“They lost one game and they drew three, home and away. I will show my players the video of their matches against Romania and Austria when there are some very important situations for us to study, and not just their psychological behavior.
“There was something about their spirit as well, their mentality, and I will show that to the players. We did it before the Italian match and the Irish players understood immediately what we wanted them to do. They will know what I want them to do against France.”
The one thing he can’t afford -- like his predecessors -- is a run of injuries or bad luck on the card front when France come to Croker on Saturday, November 14.
“The French defense are all on yellow cards coming into the game in Dublin so I am not too upset that the cards carry over from the qualifiers,” laughed Trapattoni ahead of his biggest test.
“I just pray that our players are okay. We need no injuries. We need all our players in Dublin and in Paris.”
Noel Hunt is definitely out of both games after the Reading striker underwent knee surgery that could keep him out for the rest of the season.
Trapattoni provoked much controversy back in Ireland when he omitted Blackburn midfielder Stephen Reid, claiming the player isn’t fit enough for two games in four days, while the absence of Andy Reid, Clinton Morrison and Steve Finnan was expected.
The Ireland squad to play France in the World Cup playoffs is -- Goalkeepers: Shay Given, Kieren Westwood, Joe Murphy.
Defenders: John O’Shea, Richard Dunne, Stephen Kelly, Kevin Kilbane, Eddie Nolan, Sean St. Ledger, Paul McShane, Darren O’Dea. Midfielders: Aiden McGeady, Damien Duff, Darron Gibson, Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrews, Liam Miller, Stephen Hunt, Andy Keogh, Liam Lawrence. Forwards: Kevin Doyle, Robbie Keane, Shane Long, Leon Best, Anthony Stokes.